Team Sports Will Make You Better!

I’ve played competitive sports for nearly than half of my life — 10 years in total — and most of that time was spent playing team sports (even though I’m more of an individual competitor). Was I good at it? Well, not really.

But it’s been a super important part of my life, and it has taught me so many things I’m using right now as I run a design team or have used during my startup career. Let me explain.

1. The weakest part of the team is going to bring you down.

In sports, if you have a one or two people on your team who are not progressing, their stagnation will risk taking the entire team down. If there’s a chance to score, this person can ruin that opportunity. Make sure you don’t have these types of people. How do you do that? Make sure they’re progressing or let them go.

2. Team is everything.

You really need to work as one person if you’re going to achieve maximum success. You need to be able to set up really strong relationships between each individual, which will drive them to be more passionate about results, more willing to work harder, and more effective.

3. The individual doesn’t matter (almost).

What if you do your job correctly and your teammates don’t? You effort will be useless. Since results are important, you need to collaborate and you sometimes need to skip individual achievements in order to achieve success. The team is really what matters.

4. After each battle, there’s usually another one to win.

If you put all you’ve got into one battle, it doesn’t matter if it’s a match or a feature for your product. You’re going to lose over the long-term. You can’t give up, and you always need to get back up. There are way more battles to win. You always need to act like the score is 0:0, otherwise you will never succeed.

5. The wrong leader can bring down a great team.

I strongly believe that if your team leader is bad, your team can’t show it’s full potential. Since the leader can slow the team down significantly, the person behind the steering wheel needs to be star, and needs to be respected and recognized. Otherwise it’s not going to work.

6. Offsites are super important.

Growing up with team sports, I made a mistake here. I’d never go to team beers, drinking nights, etc. (since I don’t believe in that and wanted to stay alcohol free). But on the other hand, my teammates who did go had a way better social connection with each other, since they created some memories together off the court. Make sure that you go out with your team often and are constantly team building.

7. If you feel miserable.

Obviously we all have only one body and our health is important, but if you really want to be a team player, you need to be able to go over pain, ego, and limits in order to make your team succeed. I have done that various times, and it has paid off. Even without being the most skilled player, I was able to reach my goals and play in the highest league against the best the players on the world.

8. Be a Team Player

No one these days is hiring individuals who act like sharks looking for a victim. They are looking for tigers hunting in packs. And that’s the entire point of this article. With smart, great, talented, hard-working people, you can create or achieve awesome things. But keeping and raising team spirit is hard. Make sure that you do your best to maintain it by following everything I’ve discussed thus far.

9. Quit

If you don’t feel team spirit anymore, or you simply don’t want to go in the direction the team is going, you should quit sooner rather than later. There’s nothing worse than getting dragged by the team to places to which you don’t want to go.

What should be outcome of all of this? The most important thing I have learned on this subject is that it is extremely beneficial to have experience with team sports. It will help your career significantly and make you great at building teams, understanding people, and more. I spent 10 years doing a sport for free (at a high level), but the stuff I learned about people and teamwork was priceless.

I lead the Design Team at Toptal, where we collaborate together and with teams across the company every single day. The work moves fast, and we always need to be operating on a very high level. Check out our Dribbble and the site for some examples of our work.

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